shen done him wrong: day three

day three feels like a free day. this may be the most straight fun i've had in any single day in the short, but illustrious, history of queue de grĂ¢ce. first up, a party that i would have given my right arm to be invited to, robert moore's murder by death (1976).

i can understand if the appeal of this one is a little limited, but if you're a fan of classic detective fiction and its cinematic offspring, it's a riot. it takes agatha christie, dashiell hammett and earl derr biggers' best-known sleuths, puts them on a skewer and serves them up with the assistance of a blind butler and deaf mute cook. the gist: a diabolical millionaire hosts a lavish party with the world's greatest detectives - in this case, nick and nora charles, charlie chan, hercule poirot, miss marple and sam spade - and challenges them to solve an unsolvable murder. the murder just happens to be his own. it somehow manages to satirically cram every conceivable mystery fiction cliche into an hour and a half and never once feels bloated. i swear it feels like it's about forty minutes long. the top-notch talent on hand accounts for that. it was written by neil simon and features some of the greatest comic actors of their era. it doesn't hurt that peter falk, probably my sentimental choice for favorite performer of all time, is leading the pack with a hilarious take on one of my favorite detective characters ever, sam spade. it's a knowing bit of parody but never once takes itself seriously. every fog-shrouded country lane, drawing room gathering and clock striking midnight is a perfect and hilarious inversion of its deadly fictional counterpart. it's the movie that clue (1985) can never be, even with eileen brennan appearing in both. it's broad, without a doubt, but if you know the source material you also know how incisive it is, mercilessly mocking everything from maddening plot holes to ridiculous ethnic stereotypes. it's an old favorite and was a great way to start the day.

things pick up speed a little bit with our second feature, kim ji-woon's the good, the bad, the weird (2008).

this revved up korean homage to the spaghetti western is a damn good time. it opens with a train robbery out in the manchurian desert in which the good, bounty hunter park do-won, is attempting to bring down the bad, bandit and killer park chang-yi, who has instigated the train robbery to steal a map from japanese bank officials but has been, unbeknownst to him, beaten to the punch by the weird, thief yoon tae-goo. map in hand, the weird one beats a hasty retreat to a criminal enclave known as the ghost market, where it doesn't take long before his secret makes the rounds and everyone from petty thieves to the japanese imperial army are hot on his heels. the chase progresses through marketplaces and across deserts until the inevitable standoff ends in a three-way tie for last. genre fans will be pleasantly surprised, i think, at how the familiar tropes are worked in. the old conventions are treated with affection but not so much reverence that they can't be broken down and reassembled on this horse-drawn rocket sled of a film. the camera work is innovative and acrobatic throughout and there is a central gunfight set piece, in particular, that will take your breath away. the desert chase scene finale runs a little too long, but otherwise it's a blast from start to finish. song kang-ho's performance as yoon tae-goo deserves special mention as well. much like tony leung chiu wai, he is one of the most multi-faceted actors working today who deserves international recognition, not just in asian markets. his ability to play drama, action and comedy, and deftly mix the three, is something i hope more people eventually get to see. this is as good a place as any to start. you like fun, right? this one is nothing if not fun.

the good times continue to roll with christopher guest's best in show (2000).

all kinds of things can be faked onscreen. you can pretend to be rich. you can pretend to be in love. you can pretend to be the king of england. an accomplished actor, either through training or instinctive ability, can convince us to suspend our disbelief about a great many things. i believe with all my heart, though, that there is one thing you cannot fake. you cannot fake being a dog person. other dog people will find you out. if you have a non-dog person pretending to love dogs, you will never see a more false note struck on a movie screen. it's worse than lipsyncing music biopic "bands". it's even worse than watching anthony perkins play baseball in fear strikes out (1957). fortunately, christopher guest is, without a doubt, a dog person. so, i was immediately won over by this when i originally saw it a decade ago from the first moment i saw him with that bloodhound. guest and his regular crew of mockumentarians take on the world of top-level dog shows in this outing, charting the fortunes of five entrants in the prestigious mayflower kennel club show. largely improvised, this also boasts a cast of incredibly talented people whose outtakes are probably five times as funny as what makes into the average movie under the guise of comedy. fred willard is a man on a mission this time around. if that mission was to make me cry with laughter then mission accomplished. as the hilariously inappropriate color commentator, buck laughlin, he is an unflappably cheerful machine gun of ignorance and questionable taste. he is a wonder to behold. i think i still like waiting for guffman (1997) a little bit better, but this never fails to make me laugh. plus, i love dogs, so thumbs up all the way around.

now that's more like it. two extremely funny ensemble comedies bookending a slam-bang, rollicking spaghetti eastern/western. does tomorrow stand a chance against today?

why, yes. yes it does.

1 comment:

  1. i didn't see that last picture until i finished reading the very end of the paragraph. it was placed just below the screen while reading and suddenly, wham! there it was after the question, "does tomorrow stand a chance against today?". what a great moment of laughter i had when it came to view! :D